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Barbara Corcoran’s Business Guide for Women

Photo: Courtesy of Leslie Rodriguez

More than a third of all small business owners in the United States are women, but women run only 26 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list, barely more than 5 percent.

Barbara Corcoran understands the particular difficulties women entrepreneurs face. She turned a  $1,000 loan into a real estate fortune and now stars as an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and she has plenty of advice to offer women who want to break into business.

Suit up

First, know the market. “It’s smart to answer three questions before you start your own business,” Corcoran said. “Who will buy my product or service? How much will they pay for it? Who are my competitors, and do I offer something better?”

Women in business also need to cultivate confidence, as well as a competitive streak. “You’ll need to find your voice and learn to use it. I’ve had to learn to shout on ‘Shark Tank’ to be heard,” Corcoran said. “If you don’t have the desire to win, you won’t.”

Entrepreneurship requires persistence and thick skin, too. It means learning from mistakes and ignoring naysayers. “Failing a lot is the ultimate proof that you’re meant to be a successful entrepreneur, as it shows you’re willing to shake up the status quo and try new things,” she added. “You need to be able to take a hit, bounce back up and say ‘Hit me again.’ If you can’t take a hit, you won’t stay in business.”

In focus

For those women concerned about work-life balance, Corcoran has an unorthodox and practical solution. “Chasing after balance that doesn’t exist just makes things worse,” she said. “I learned to throw myself into each portion of my life 150 percent when I was there and separate the two. If I was with my son, I wouldn’t touch anything to do with the business, and when I was at work I never thought about my kids.”

But these days women entrepreneurs have some advantages their predecessors didn’t. Corcoran says technology can level the playing field, especially for smaller businesses. “You can compete with the big guy in social media and win, based solely on creativity.”

In the end, according to Corcoran, entrepreneurship is a hunt. “It’s having a clear picture of what you’re after, overcoming the obstacles and not coming home ‘til you get it.”

I-Hsien Sherwood, [email protected]

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